212 West 14th Street
New York, NY 10011
For many people, Italian is their favorite cuisine. Just look at the Food Network; it's literally swimming in celebrity chefs cooking up Italian food. Well, Italian is fine, but I've always preferred French. This might have something to do with its relative rarity. You can drive through just about any town in the country and they'll have a local Italian restaurant. There are countless chain restaurants serving Italian. Whether the random local place or the chains are any good or not is a different story altogether, but the restaurants are there. The chances are, if you've got a hankering for Italian, unless you live in Barrow, Alaska, your town has a place offering it up. (Side note: Barrow does not have an Italian restaurant. But it does have a sushi spot.) French, on the other hand, is decidedly less common and, therefore, more interesting. Occasionally, I get it. French cuisine is famous for frogs' legs, escargot, sweetbreads, tartare... things that the squeamish milksop namby pamby little old lady coward in you thinks is gross. Well I'd eat any of those before I got within six inches of the larvae-filled Italian delicacy "rotten cheese". Not to mention that I happen to really like escargot and frogs' legs.
Should one find themselves in the Meatpacking District but be disinterested in the pomp of that particular scene, they might do well to head a couple of blocks east. That's where Jean & Gaston is. Half the price, triple as calm. In warmer weather, the rear patio is opened, and I imagine that getting brunch there would be fun. Myna and I met after work on a Monday night when the weather was not quite rear-patio friendly. I was the second patron to arrive that evening when I showed up around seven. "Uh oh. Not a big crowd." I always worry when I see empty restaurants. What do the other 8 million New Yorkers who aren't here right now know that I don't, I wonder. Thankfully, people started showing up and, by the time we left, most tables were taken. So fear not. The interior of Jeanne & Gaston is subdued and calm. French jazz music plays and there's a bohemian atmosphere that other French restaurants like L'express, Nice Matin, and the various Bouluds simply don't have or even try to have. It evoked imagery of absinth drips and wine. So Myna and I ordered wine.
I also immediately ordered the Escargot. Remember how I just said that I like escargot? Well, don't get the escargot here. Jean & Gaston's version went overboard on the pesto. See, I like my snails soaked in garlic butter with a wee bit of pesto for some depth, and then a ton of bread to soak everything up in. Here, no bread and so much pesto that I could barely taste anything. So I'm giving you fair warning. Myna selected the Crispy Goat Cheese, Walnut and Apricot pastry. Her savory dish, served with a little side salad (mostly for color) was very good and far a far better choice than mine. It's admittedly small, but worth it.
I lost once again when I ordered the Monkfish Niciose as my entree. Monkfish served over mixed vegetables. I knew I was making a mistake as soon as the words escaped my lips. Monkfish. What was I thinking? I'll tell you what I was thinking. I was thinking "you should eat healthy, Jon. Lose some weight, Jon. Knock off the cheeseburgers and matzo ball soup, Jon." Stupid conscience gets me every time. Ah well. Anyway, the monkfish was flaky, but dense and tough. The chef used far too much vinegar, perhaps to cut the fishy smell that many people find unappetizing, and the vegetables tasted like they were pickled. Nothing about this entree worked and I forced it down because I need more omega-3 in my diet. Myna made no such mistake. Her Le Bourginon, braised short ribs in a pinot noir sauce over mashed potatoes, was exactly what I had been craving. Tender beef, a thick red wine reduction with vegetables and creamy mashed potatoes. God I'm stupid. Shit. It was delicious and she did not want my fish.
Dessert time came, so we ordered a coffee and a Jasmine Tea Creme Brulee. I doubt that I'd have noticed the jasmine tea flavor if they didn't explicitly say that it was there, but after some hunting, I guess it was there in the background somewhere. All the same, it was a good creme brulee as far as creme brulees go. The wafer shaped like a spoon was a cute touch.
Four glasses of wine, two appetizers, two entrees, a dessert, a coffee, tax and tip totaled $180.